Almost everything in society is telling us to work harder, be better and strive for more. What if this actually creates the opposite effect of what we truly want – to feel great about ourselves and to feel purpose in our lives? If we feel good it makes sense that our work will reflect that – whatever job we do. But what if we don’t feel vital and alive most of the time? How does that affect our work and which comes first the chicken or the egg – work hard, feel bad or feel bad, work hard?

Consider this: “77% of workers have a chronic health condition: depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and heart attack, that is costing business $84 billion in lost productivity.” Gallup, 2013. And this: “There is a significant cost of work-related stress, depression and anxiety which is over 13 million days a year.” Annual surveys of sickness absence CBI (CIPD/AXA 2012)

Working hard is clearly taking its toll on us but it needn’t be.

Being busy and working hard aren’t the same as being effective yet most of us subscribe to these notions. But, why? And what works if ‘hard’ and ‘busy’ don’t?

Parents@Work recently hosted the teleconference event: Working Smarter in 2016 in an effort to support working carers to address these issues. Emma Walsh, founder of Parents@Work, interviewed experienced Career Coach and Author – Rebecca Harper – to discuss ways we can address working smarter not harder.

The interaction and personal sharing’s of Rebecca, Emma and the working parents on the call provided a space to learn from each other around working smarter as an employee with caring responsibilities. Below are some key points covered:

  • Work-life interference is on the increase – we spend 30% of our waking time at work and women are still doing the majority of house and caring work. Mental Health issues are on the increase and they are leading to more people feeling wired/manic and depressed.
  • We have grown up in a society that values ‘work hard by throwing everything into it – blood sweat and tears’. This is what many believe brings success. This is changing as people focus more on ‘work-life balance’ that suits their individual needs and values health and wellbeing.
  • Research has found that technology has – in many areas – actually done the opposite of what it was originally intended for – to save time and energy.
  • It’s very common for people not to use holiday time for down time.
  • Main ingredients for working smarter are: self-awareness, a known vision and known values.
  • We constantly feel in conflict if our activities are not in line with our values.
  • It’s easer to self-manage when you know your strengths and weaknesses. You can then ask for extra support with your weaknesses.
Tips on how to work smarter 
  • Define what success looks like overall for you – go beyond a few goals. Remember there are many ways of getting to the end game so it’s ok if the path isn’t linear. Focus on your intent not on societies pressure to fit someone else’s picture of success
  • Be decisive about what you do and know why you are doing it
  • Only check emails at certain times and if notifications are distracting you turn them off. This helps you focus on one thing at a time.
  • Limit time suckers – if what you are doing doesn’t help you achieve your work-life goals put it aside
  • Set an alarm to go to sleep to avoid wasting time on things like scrolling Facebook as entertainment relief for a busy day.
  • Book a holiday – set aside time for deliberate down time
  • Out all irrelevant tasks/activities that don’t serve your work/life goals
  • Implement the 80/20 rule. If some jobs are 80% done well that’s ok. We don’t need to do everything, or everything perfectly.
  • Bring in extra help.
  • Find time to do the things that energise you – like exercise and meditation. These stop moments (from work and caring responsibilities) have a huge roll-on effect to your overall wellbeing.
  • Ask yourself “what can I change or move rather than ‘just get on with it’
  • Appreciate how valuable your time is – what effect does ‘giving your time away freely’ have on your family?
  • Create a plan as a family so that you can do it as a unit to support one another to get there. It’s easier to feel committed and to prioritise if you are able to articulate what you want.
  • Ask: how aligned are my goals with my values? If it feels like you are ‘in flow’ you are well aligned with your values. If not you simply have an opportunity to change your goals.
  • Be focused and present.
  • Keep goals small. The more goals we set the less likely we are to achieve them. Realistic goals will increase your level of satisfaction and sense of achievement.
  • Set priorities each day.
  • Limit meetings you don’t need to go to.
  • Have realistic expectation on your self and others.
  • Constantly review what is working well and what isn’t.

And finally – THE BIG TIP – Celebrate what you have done not what is yet to be done. Praise yourself and those around you. It does wonders for your sense of wellbeing and outlook on life – even amongst the chaos.

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